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Bennett v. Sevier

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

January 23, 2019

MARK SEVIER, et al., Defendants.



         Kevin Bennett, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a motion for a preliminary injunction. He seeks treatment for his back pain, including pain medication, physical therapy, and surgery, as well as treatment for his mental condition, including psychotropic medication and mental health therapy. “The purpose of preliminary injunctive relief is to minimize the hardship to the parties pending the ultimate resolution of the lawsuit.” Platinum Home Mortg. Corp. v. Platinum Fin. Group, Inc., 149 F.3d 722, 726 (7th Cir.1998). “In order to obtain a preliminary injunction, the moving party must show that: (1) they are reasonably likely to succeed on the merits; (2) no adequate remedy at law exists; (3) they will suffer irreparable harm which, absent injunctive relief, outweighs the irreparable harm the respondent will suffer if the injunction is granted; and (4) the injunction will not harm the public interest.” Joelner v. Village of Washington Park, Illinois, 378 F.3d 613, 619 (7th Cir. 2004).

         Facts Related to Back Pain

         Mr. Bennett alleges that he tried to hang himself in his cell at the Westville Control unit in April 2018. ECF 2. He alleges that four correctional officers jumped on his back, handcuffed him, and escorted him to the medical unit. He alleges that, since that time, he has suffered tingling, numbness, and sharp back pain and has received inadequate treatment.

         In response, the Warden provided a letter from Dr. Andrew Liaw and Mr. Bennett's medical records from April 2018 through November 2018. ECF 17-1. In the letter, Dr. Liaw says he has personally treated Mr. Bennett for neck pain and that Mr. Bennett never told him that he continued to have neck issues. Id. at 572.

         According to the medical records, on May 11, 2018, Mr. Bennett complained to Dr. Liaw of throat pain due to the attempted hanging. Id. at 440-443. Dr. Liaw examined Mr. Bennett and ordered a cervical X-ray. Id. On May 14, another doctor ordered Tylenol for Mr. Bennett. Id. at 435-436, On May 16, Dr. Liaw noted a mass effect and ordered a CT scan, which Mr. Bennett received on May 25. Id. at 426-428. On June 15, Dr. Liaw saw Mr. Bennett for a chronic care appointment. Id. at 369-372. He had previously complained of chest pain and shortness of breath but reported that these symptoms had resolved. Id. On September 11, during a chronic care appointment, Dr. Liaw and Mr. Bennett discussed hypertension, hypothyroidism, and diet. Id. at 138-141.

         In reply, Mr. Bennett states that he asked nurses for medication for back pain on daily basis during his time on suicide watch. ECF 35. He says that, on May 11, 2018, he told Dr. Liaw about his neck pain and that he felt paralyzed from the neck down but that Dr. Liaw didn't take him seriously, replying, “If you were paralyzed, you wouldn't be able to walk.” Mr. Bennett states that, on August 21, he told a nurse about his neck pain and that the nurse renewed his Tylenol prescription and told him to tell the doctor at his next chronic care visit.

         Facts Related to Mental Condition

         Mr. Bennett alleges that he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, antisocial personality disorder, anxiety, and depression. ECF 2. He alleges that he needs psychotropic medication to cope with the conditions in solitary confinement. According to Mr. Bennett, medical staff discontinued his prescription for psychotropic medication in February 2018 and forced him to undergo psychotherapy without it.

         In response, the Warden provided a letter from Dr. Monica Wala and Mr. Bennett's medical records from April 2018 through November 2018. ECF 17-1. In the letter, Dr. Wala says she is the lead psychologist at the Westville Correctional Facility and has reviewed the relevant medical records. Id. at 573-579. According to Dr. Wala, Mr. Bennett first arrived at the Westville Control Unit in August 2014 with a mental health diagnosis of depression. Soon after, he began to report auditory hallucinations, which were unsubstantiated. In June 2016, he tied a loose rope around his neck, which suggested suicidal ideation, and he was transferred to the mental health unit at Pendleton Correctional Facility, which offered intensive mental health services.

         In Dr. Wala's letter, she included a July 2016 report from a psychologist at the Pendleton facility, Dr. Walter L. Campbell. ECF 17-1 at 574-578. In this detailed report, Dr. Campbell determined that Mr. Bennett was incorrectly diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder upon his arrival at Pendleton. He included several quotes from notes from Mr. Bennett's mental health records since 2012, including a recantation from the psychiatrist who made the initial schizoaffective disorder diagnosis. Dr. Campbell observed that, except for Mr. Bennett's reports of auditory hallucinations, no medical provider had ever documented observable symptoms of psychosis such as disorganized thought or attention to internal stimuli. He assessed that antisocial personality disorder provided a better explanation for Mr. Bennett's course of conduct, which included frequently exposing himself and masturbating in front of female staff, inappropriate language, malingering or other calculating behavior, suicide attempts, and hunger strikes.

         Dr. Wala states that Mr. Bennett returned to the Westville Control Unit in June 2017 due to numerous reports of sexual misconduct and lack of compliance with treatment. Since his return, he has exhibited no signs of psychosis and has continued to engage in antisocial behavior, including exposing himself to female staff. His psychotropic medication was discontinued in March 2018 due to noncompliance and hoarding. Mental health staff see him at his cell on a weekly basis and see him out of his cell on a monthly basis, though Mr. Bennett has recently refused psychotherapy sessions, citing his belief that it would harm his ability to prevail in this case.

         The medical records show that Mr. Bennett has regular access to mental health providers but that he often refuses to participate. The records also include several reports of continued misconduct but includes no observations of psychosis. Most recently, according to the therapy notes, Mr. Bennett participated in mental health therapy sessions in September and October 2018 and repeatedly asked for psychotropic medication. Id. at 107-169. On November 2, his counselor found that Mr. Bennett had made some progress and referred him to a psychiatrist to discuss medication. Id. at 85-87. On November 9, a nurse reported that Mr. Bennett had hoarded a Tylenol pill and used it in an attempt to get a second Norvasc pill, which he had been prescribed for hypertension. Id. at 74-75. From November 15 to November 27, Mr. Bennett refused to see his counselor twice. Id. at 37-43.

         In reply, Mr. Bennett states that Dr. Wala refused to see him based on his history of sexual misconduct even though he was willing to allow a male correctional officer or counselor to sit in on the session. ECF 35. He says Dr. Wala told him that she didn't believe his reports of hallucinations and refused to give him psychotropic medication, crushed into powder form or otherwise. He also states that his out-of-cell therapy sessions don't take place in a confidential setting. He maintains that he has never touched, grabbed, or fondled any female staff during his time in prison and that the restrictions placed on him in regard to female staff are frivolous. He states that he never refused mental health treatment but also says ...

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